Her body refused to function while her mind begged it to. Familiar panic leaked through the cracks, as she lost grip on her calm. Lights were flashing and people were pushing.
“Please.” Her whispers were heard by no-one. “Stop it!” This time they heard her but they only pushed closer and closer. She should have known better. Panic flooded her senses as she flipped to full primal mode. “Amos!” With arms and legs flailing wildly she scrambles to get above the crowd, away from them, so that she can breath.
“She’s panicking!” Someone called out from behind her over the noise of the crowd. It was a familiar voice. “Move quickly.” Yup, she definitely knew that voice. He had a firm hold of her shoulders as he lifted her off the ground.
“Easy for you to say when you don’t have the lethal end. These heels are like daggers!” The reply came from in front of her but she was to busy trying to climb him out like a boulder, to pay him any heed.
He finally managed to subdue her legs and the next thing she knew, she was flung onto the backseat of the car and the door was slammed shut. The sudden atmosphere change had her motionless with anticipation, but nothing happened. She lay shaking violently in the same position she landed, trying to gather herself.
They must have gotten Amos to the car before her because he was looking down at her where she lay with her head on his lap. He was frownig. Riddick, the silent giant, moved as if to help her up or comfort her but Amos interrupted him.
“Don’t touch her.” He instructed calmly and Riddick sat down obediently.
Kira scrambled up fast and squeezed into the corner, as far away from everyone as possible. Opening the window she stuck her head out and let the icy wind calm her. By the time her face was numb, she had regained some calm and soon retreated back into the car. Maans and Jackson, her two personal gorillas, sat opposite her. Next to her sat Amos with Riddick, his right hand, opposite him. Everyone seemed a little edgy. Kita didn’t blame them though. Amos and Riddick are familiar with her skittish tendencies and knew how to dodge her claws. Maans clearly still had to learn because the nail marks on his neck left obvious crimson stains on his white collar.
“Wild thing.” He teased awkwardly when he saw her eyeing his new scar. “I think you nicked an artery here.”
She quickly looked away, pretending not to have seen. Embarrassment coursed through her but she refused to let it show. She saw her reflection in the window and flinched. A crazy lady stared back at her. The white blond James Dean hairstyle was standing in all directions, her eyes were glossy and red around the edges against, and her nose was bright pink from the cold.
She ran her hands through her hair in an attempt to tame it before she snuck a glance sideways at her brother who immediately made her feel ashamed. He looked as calm as always as he made a few calls to finalize arrangements. How can twins be so different? She felt the constant urge to scream and bite and destroy everything she saw. Yet Amos seemed so unaffected. Which was not true of course, but it still bothered her that he kept himself together so effortlessly while she drowned. They looked very similar of course. They were both tall, long limbed and pale, very pale. House Grekov’s signature shock of white hair and eyebrows cursed their features and separated them from the crowd. Amos kept his hair in a military style, neatly shaven and simple. They both had very angular features and really blue eyes, but Amos’s eyes were much lighter than hers. The media referred to their appearance as “Alien-like beauty”, earning them a spot on the top 10-list of people to watch. People found them intriguing. It was a look that came with their last name, a look that ran in the family.
Family. The word rang dully in the walls of her mind as the reality of the situation once again peek-a-boo’d its head from behind other distractions. This very morning the news of their uncle’s death had reached them. Uncle Dimitri had been a decent man, an interesting one. She and her brother were now the last of the family still standing and she wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.
“We need to get away from this place.” Kita muttered to herself as she rubbed at her face like a child who missed its afternoon nap. She felt weak and tired and she hated herself for it.
They were now the last representatives of the legendary House Grekov and she could feel the whole of Russia’s eyes glued to her back. And to add to the pressure, the family fortune and responsibilities were now also in their hands and it felt bad, really bad. She had never really asked questions as to where the money came from. She knew it was old money and that they came from a long line of military posts. After democracy fell in Russia the military took indirect control of the country, each running their district to their liking. She had a suspicion that their fortune was not gained honorably thus she had no wish to be involved with the finances. Plus being in control of such a sum automatically put a bulls-eye on your back and politics dogs you like a hungry wolf. Just some of the perks of being a Russian aristocrat.
“Kira.” Amos’s voice snapped her back to present and she found she was impatiently tapping her foot rather loudly in the silence of the car.
She slowly put her feet and legs together, her hands restless in her lap. They had just arrived at the airport and the media was waiting, less this time but still there.
“Get it together, Kiki.” Amos ordered gently. “Hold onto the back of my jacket as we exit. The rest of you, don’t separate us again. Just get us to the plane and make sure no one touches her. Understood?” Kita rolled her eyes at the formality of it all, half expecting the guys to give a loud ‘Oorah’ but they only nodded. Only Jackson was a yank. Riddick was Russian and Maans a Nigerian but they were all very serious.
“So lets go arrange a funeral.” She said, gripping the back of her brother’s coat.
How gloomy her life felt at that moment.
What a mess she was. It was about an hours before the funeral and Kira couldn’t get herself as far as ready.
She was sitting on the edge of the big sink in her hotel room with her feet in a sink of icy cold water. Closing the tap she clambered off the sink and back into her black heels. As she smoothed out possible wrinkles in her trousers, she cast a last glance at herself in the full-length mirror. All in black, the masculine style trousers were loosely fitted to her slim legs and hung over most of her heels; making her already long legs look even longer. Her shirt was buttoned all the way to the top, no tie, and an oversized loosely knitted woolen jersey kept her warm. Her hair still stood wildly from running her wet fingers through it, but she liked the look so she left it. Kira was well aware of her vanity but it never bothered her until today. Today it felt wrong to care about how she looked when she had other things she needed to keep her mind on.
Amos was waiting for her when she entered the living room. He got up as she got closer and neatly tossed her fur coat at her, which she caught with distaste, as he started heading for the elevator. She never felt comfortable wearing fur and she always found herself apologizing and talking to the animal she was wearing. Weird.
Amos on the other hand was wearing the pitch-black designer trench coat she had given him in an attempt to get him interested in his appearance, to no avail of course. His full black suit, shirt and all, blended in one beneath the black coat. All in all, the black attire looked rather morbid, especially against his pale complexions. Seeing that they were in mourning, morbid seems appropriate. When her eyes fell on his black sneakers she gave an amused snort.
How inappropriate. But Amos ignored her not so subtle remark as he pressed the parking floor button. He wasn’t saying a thing, which was not out of the ordinary, but he was fidgeting and that was unheard of. But Kira pushed her suspicion aside for now, putting all her concentration on keeping herself together.
As the elevator door opened up and Kira looked up, she felt a flush of panic wash over her uncontrollably. There where the guys, each with a very scary looking gun draped around their necks like they’d just won a pageant for best soldier or something. Kira hated guns, very much. She just hugged herself and automatically turned around to find a corner to hide in the elevator. But Amos foresaw this and was there to block her.
“Come Kira. This is necessary.” His attempt at being comforting failed.
She didn’t say anything but immediately became a rag doll, making Amos sigh. He signaled for Riddick and Maans to come give him a hand. In complete silence the three men got Kira on her feet before Riddick carried her carefully to the back of the SUV. Never once did her hands leave her face from a mixture fear and embarrassment. Riddick placed her softly on the open flap at the back of the SUV but when she peered through her fingers it was Amos’s face she saw and Riddick was already walking away.
Amos pulled her hands from her face and she instinctively pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them as she looked at her brother.
“This is really hard for me, Amos.” She needed him to understand.
“I know. For you more than any of us.” He handed her a bottle of water with one hand and two pills with the other one. She paused for a second before she took them obediently and stuck her tongue out automatically for him to inspect that they were gone.
“I really need you to be calm otherwise I won’t be giving you the pills. You know that right?” He looked sad as he saw the fear etched into every groove of her face and she wouldn’t look at him. “Do you want to end up in a ditch like our parents? They had it coming but we don’t!” He was getting angry now because she was making him feel like the bad guy. “We don’t!” Kira could tell he was feeling really bad about the pills. It looked like he was telling himself off rather than her. Giving an ex-jukie strong medication was a real gamble but Kira understood. She needed to keep it together now.
With Kira it was all or nothing. She couldn’t suppress some emotions and choose to feel others. It was either a whole lot of emotions pouring from her, or nothing. Amos could choose his emotions like an outfit to wear for the day. It always amazed Kira.
Amos saw the shift in Kira and she could immediately tell that it bothered him. It always bothered him. It made all the guys uncomfortable because it was very much not the girl they knew and adored.
Riddick and Maans came forwards and gently took her big jersey off, strapped a snug bullet proof vest to her before putting her jersey back on.
Kira stood up, moved her arms and body to make sure it was comfy before taking the small gun handed to her by Riddick. She was in full function mode now. Old fears disappeared and things get done.
As she tucked the 22 automatic pistol into the back of her pants, Amos came to give her a hug.
“People will be gunning for us now. You know this is necessary right?” All of this really bothered him and that made Kira feel good. Only human after all.
“I know.” Is all she said as she gave him a pat on the back. I know.
A few hours later at the end of a dreary ceremony, Kira and Amos were sitting on chairs next to the their uncle’s vase, to receive the condolences. They had kept the funeral as small as possible yet still it took forever.
The pills had not worn off yet so Kira was struggling to keep focus.
First came the business partners all polite and businesslike, nothing new there. But then it became interesting. Next approached an old Asian lady, wearing a charcoal hoody with a huge hand print on the front. Being a Star Trek fan Kita recognized it as the Vulcan sign for “Live long and prosperous”. The irony was not lost on her.
The lady walked up to Amos first, and stood in front of him for a few seconds, somber faced as only old asian ladies can be, she did not say a word. She only raised her hand in front of her, palm towards Amos, and stood expectantly. After a pause, Amos realized the woman wanted a high-five and so, glancing at Kita, gave her the most awkward high-five in existence. Kira’s amusement quickly turned to pleasure when the lady then moved on to her and repeated her ritual. She liked this lady, so after a firm high-five and a grin she watched the straight-faced woman walk away.
Another strange one was the beautiful woman. She was almost six feet tall, supermodel figure clad in a tight evening gown with sparkled all over. She had arrived alone and didn’t mingle at all, even turned down the over eager business men thinking her to be a high end escort of sorts. Somehow that just did not seem to be the case. When she arrived at the front of the row she kissed the vase softly and moved on to Amos. Tears were rolling down the woman’s face as she held out both her hands to Amos, who took them rather hesitantly. She then dropped to her knees in front of him, making Amos sit up wide-eyed and blushing. But she only bowed her head and kissed both his hands before swiftly moving on to Kita to repeat the procedure.
Who are these people? Was the question that was making headlines in Kira’s mind.
Other than them, there were a few more interesting ones. Like the tiny man dressed in full military field gear, saluting Amos and giving Kira a shy wave. There was also the friendly gay who hugged Amos and blessed Kira with and extra kiss on both cheeks, like they were at some socialite’s party.
Many strange things happened and the twins just sat there in a state of confusion. The last man to pay his respect was the man Kira had been waiting for the whole time. She had glimpsed him from time to time as he knocked back the vodka’s like it was his own funeral. Something about him just made her want to run after him, like Alice ran after the rabbit in the over-coat with the pocket watch. He was a big Native American man in a black suit; his long black dreads had traces of grey and his weathered face carried age badly. Around his neck hung crystal after stone after feather after tiny wooden sculptures, on leather bonds. It decorated his chest like a lions mane. He held each of the pendants up to the vase in turn, muttering/humming under his breath in a foreign language. It looked like some spiritual ritual being performed and it was beautiful. Even though his swaying seemed more from intoxication than anything else.
When he reached Amos, with the ease of a practiced drunk, he removed from his neck a leather band with a small-carved bear on its end. He stood there smiling down warmly at Amos as he waited for him to get up and get to eye level. They were quite the visual contrast.
“The Bearmen.” The man said holding the necklace out at Amos. “They were the fittest and strongest of their tribe. When battle came, they would be the first to charge the enemy with nothing but their bare hands and their brave hearts. Warriors and protectors, they were.” He reached up and placed it over Amos’s bent head. With a last nod he made as if to leave but swung back, looking as if to get something off his chest. “May you embrace the dark so that the light seems more welcoming.” He added humbly, bringing both hands up, palms facing Amos. Before Amos could attempt to high-five the man, he moved on to Kira.
Standing in front of Kira, he looked at her with surprisingly clear eyes. He made her a little uncomfortable. She almost felt unworthy of this drunk, smiling so warmly at her.
I mean he is completely sloshed at a funeral! Come now! But when he reached in his pocket and placed a small object in her hand, she was fascinated. It was a ring made of a light woven leather band with small turquoise stones enveloped in the leather, yet still visible.
“The Serpent’s Eye.” He said as she eagerly tried it on and inspected it like a child at Christmas. “The serpent is known for it’s balance between good and evil. Its eye observes everything from an impartial perspective, leaving room for its continual rebirth. May your life be fuller than you ever imagined possible, Kirakita.” He said, drawing Kira’s attention back to him. He raised his hands again in his strange salute and he was off. Kita looked at her brother to find him gazing after the departing man.
“Now there is an autobiography I would read.” Amos stated plainly.
It was the only encouragement Kira needed. Without over thinking it, she set off in pursuit of the man and Amos had no choice but to follow. She found him outside, looking rather lost. Glancing up as she came to a sudden halt beside him, he looked at her expectantly and she wished she had thought it through a bit more before rushing out.
“Uhm,” What was she going to say? Who are you? Tell me everything you know. What’s with the accessories? Will you be my friend? Where are you going? Are you always this drunk? What is your story? No, she didn’t want to scare him off. Those questions could wait. “Could we give you a ride? Where are you heading?” It was the best she could come up with on the spot and it bought her more time.
“Kindness with a hint of curiosity. Or maybe the other way around.” He chuckled softly. “I am going to the train station and a ride would be greatly appreciated. I never did get the whole taxi cab thing.” He confessed to Amos who appeared at Kira’s side. Amos took his phone out the pocket and called the driver to bring the car around. They stood in silence for a minute as they waited for the car, looking from one to the other and somehow it didn’t feel too awkward.
When the car arrived the twins sat in the back with the Indian man tucked cozily in the middle of them, the scent of brandy oozing from his pores.
“I’m Kira.” Kita broke the silence. “And this is my brother Amos.”
“Yes, your uncle talked about you often in his letters. It’s a real treat to finally meet you. My name is Don.” He stated, still smiling happily at the both of them.
Kira’s heart was already burning with affection for this oddly flawed man and she could see Amos was also warming to the man. She felt like she was going to burst with curiosity and she kept glancing at the man beside her.
“So how do you know my Uncle?” Don laughed heartily as the question burst out of Kira, making Amos sigh at his sister’s lack of restraint.
“We met in Cape Town in the early 70’s.” His brow furrowed as if he was digging deep for the memories. “I had moved there on my own as a young man, barely out of my teens. Trying to escape my life and make a difference, you know, the usual. Your uncle was there too for the exact same reason. South Africa was such a taboo country in those days. We met in a bar in Hout Bay over a beer, singing heartily to Sixto Rodriguez.” He casually started humming-singing Think Of You by Rodriguez. “Sixto was bigger than Elvis in South Africa, you know.” He added seriously when he ran out of tune.
“So you guys were close?” Kira inquired, not wanting the story to be over. Amos gave her a meaningful glare from the other side of the car, clearly wanting to avoid potential awkward situations in a confined space.
“We were the best of friends, true friends.” Don replied, oblivious to Amos’s discomfort. “It is usually the people you spend your darkest times with that you form an indestructible bond with. Wouldn’t you agree, Amos?”
Taken by surprise Amos just nodded, suddenly aware of the dull ache in his left arm. His time with the Soviets had been harsh, leaving him scarred in many ways. He had been trapped beneath a collapsed building once while his unit was getting gunned down around him. When back-up arrived there were only a few left and Amos could still be heard screaming like a angry looney. That’s how the found him. His left arm had been crushed under a particularly immobile foundation wall. He had wrenched it right out the socked as he tried to get to his men, protect them, cover them. They didn’t have the equipment to move the wall and they didn’t have the time to get any. So all the men got together to lift the wall as much as they could as Riddick and another guy pulled Amos’s arm from underneath. His arm was ripped and crushed, but he was lucky enough to keep the arm. His unit had kept him alive.
Kira could see the memory play off behind Amos’s eyes but Don quickly changed the subject and babbled rather senselessly about the weather.
They stopped at the station and before the driver could open any doors, Kita was out, taking the luggage from the boot. When the men got out she was already waiting.
“What time is your train?” She asked eagerly, hopeful for a few more minutes to ask as many questions as possible.
“In 25 minutes.” He replied as he pulled his coat in tightly around him. Turning to Amos, he held out his hand. “I appreciate the lift.” He thanked with that affectionate smile of his. Such warmth. Here in Russia such warmth was a rare thing. Amos returned the smile as he shook Don’s hand, his energy was infectious.
Taking the bags from Kira he smiled at her and saw the anxiety dance in her eyes like madness. She knew something, a chance, a change, was slipping away from her as he took his bags. Don felt his heart squeeze for her. She was so desperate for more, a way out, a second chance.
He walked away with inner turmoil. Should I or shouldn’t I? I promised I wouldn’t. But it could help them. He looked back to see Amos standing beside his sister and Don saw the reality for what is was. There stood the last of the Grekov family and the sight was a sad one. Life in Russia was just going to get darker and darker for them until it’s all pitch black. Taking a deep breath, Don headed back to the twins. When he reached them he looked up, determined to say what he had to say.
“You have a cousin in Cape Town.” He revealed nervously. “Your uncle had a child with a Xhosa woman in Cape Town. He made me promise not to tell, but sometimes he does not know best. Mostly, some would say.”
They were still just staring at him. Amos was the first to say something.
“You have a black cousin in Africa. His name is Diene and he is quite older than the two of you.” He added, not knowing how to make it any clearer than he already had.
The smile that broke over Kira’s face gave Don some relief.
“We have a cousin.” She grinningly observed. Clasping her brother roughly in a bear hug, she shook him forcefully. “We have a cousin!” She exclaimed again through laughter. Forcing Amos to chuckle at her while trying to get her off him. Kita turned back to Don when her brother shook her off. “Where can we find him? Does he know about us? Do you have an address?”
“Okay, wait a moment.” Don cut Kita off. “Let me tell you all I know and don’t interrupt me. All these questions make me feel like running away.” He walked over to a bench and the twins followed, sitting down on both sides of him and so he began. “Dimitri arrived at Cape Town in 1969 and left in 1974. There was a black woman who worked at our residence at the time. Her name was Unati and she was beautiful, very beautiful and kind and smart. Your uncle fell in love with her and it was a tragic love story that would have made Shakespeare cry. Fraternizing with blacks was highly illegal back then. Apartheid still weighed heavy on the country back in those years and it was dark times. But it didn’t stop them though. A few weeks before he left they at last spent a night together and every night after that until he had to leave. He discreetly tried to bring her over with him, but it didn’t work no matter which way he tried it. So he left her there and life went on though not as before. A few months later Diene was born but Unati had no way of letting him know without putting them all at risk so she just let it be. In 1990 when Mandela was released from prison she though she could finally get word to Dimitri but her letter was intercepted and she was beaten to death. Diene got away but because he was of mixed blood, no shelter would take him in and thus as a teenager he became a street kid. He begged and lived on the street for many years. Until the Hua brothers took him in.” Don took a moment to look at the pair of blue eyes looking at him from both sides, one pair frowning and the other wide-eyed and glossy.
“Know you must understand that the following I tell you was heard through the grape vine. It might not be the truth. You will have to find that out for yourself.” Don looked at them meaningfully and both nodded, one slowly and the other vigorously.
“Right then, so the Hau family is known for their fighting skills first of all. Both sons were professional UFC fighters and the best of the best. The younger brother is known as The Dragon and apparently the name suits the personality. He was hot tempered with destructive mood swings. His older brother by 2 years is known as The Tiger and once again it would appear appropriate. He is known for his strength and composure. They say he is the biggest Chinese man ever, not that that says much, but apparently he is the scariest of the two. He killed a man in the ring in China and was banished from the sport for life. Now both brothers are part of a mob in Cape Town run by their father, who I know nothing of. They run an underground fight club where they also train young men to fight. So then basically the men sign their lives away to the Hua’s. The brothers have become somewhat of a cult in Cape Town. Dragon had been locked up a few times but never to serious. Sometime in early 2000 Dragon beat a 17 year boy to the edge of death, for spilling a drink on him. Tiger had arrived just in time to pull his brother off, none off the entourage would ever dare interfere when Dragon was fighting, it might cost them their lives. Tiger was the only one who could step in. Unfortunately the drunk adolescent was an ANC politicians son and charges were pressed. Tiger weighed the situation and he knew he would serve a shorter sentence than his brother seeing that his track record has been clean since his banishment from the cage. So he took the fall and spent 7 years in lock-up. He is still on parole to this day and for the rest of his days.”
He took another breather but neither twin said a thing so he continued his story. “They say his time inside changed him because on the day Tiger got out, his brother died of a mysterious overdose and no charges were pressed for lack of evidence.
It was rumored that Tiger took boys from the street and trained them for his fight club. Diene is one of the boys he picked up way back when, before he did time. They are apparently close.” Taking a deep breath he let it out loudly. “Well that is all I have for you and now I have to leave before Kira bombards me with questions.” He teased fondly. “And remember, we create our own realities.” Having said that he walking off briskly.
Amos and Kita were once again left staring after him like simpletons. They sat in silence for some time before Amos glanced at his sister. “Cape Town?”
Kira just nodded and that was that. It was decided.
Arriving at Cape Town International was definitely a culture shock. It was loud and busy and thrilling for Kira. Amos on the other hand was not thrilled. People were openly staring at the twins. They did stand out though, more so than in Russia. They were very beautiful and strange looking even in this rainbow nation country. There was literally people of all races buzzing around the place. But then again it was an airport, duh. Amos was ridged as our security double check our luggage when airport security was done.
“Jeez Amos, this isn’t Moscow. Nobody here has reason to take a shot at us here. Nobody knows us here but this security detail isn’t working. Might as well ask someone to try and rob us. These men need to at least blend in.” She was adamant and firm, leaving no room for discussion. She ducked into the nearest airport retail store and Maans was forced to follow. They emerged 10 minutes later, Kira walking first with a big smile as a pink shirted Maans mock strutted behind her, drawing laughter and remarks from the rest of the guys. It soon turned to mumbling and complaints as Kira handed them each their own shirt. Some had patterns, some were khaki and others had collars but it worked. Amos had laughed but was still a little skittish.
“Stop being so awkward.” Kira scolded him as they got into the car picking them up.
“I can’t help it.” He complained as he rested his head on the headrest of the seat. “I don’t know how to process all this extreme personal newness.”
“I can tell.” Patting his arm sympathetically, she gave him a little shake. “But get it together, brother dear. I’m the one who gets to loose my shit. Not you. Why don’t you tell me more about the plan of action, huh? What have you organized, Mr. Organizer?”
Kita watched as her brother got back into his comfort zone as he started rambling off about the plans he had put in place and the arrangements that had been made.
“Maans has located the gym owned by the family, where they spend most of their time training. He has confirmed that Diene is there and that they call him Blue. He is one of the main dogs and we must keep in mind that this might not be a rescue mission if the target does not want rescuing.” He glanced at his sister, ready to argue his point. “We don’t know this guy at all and he could like it there. He’s not a child Kira. He’s a grown man and we can hardly throw him over our shoulder and drag him to safety. That would be kidnapping. Even with our security team, who I do not intent to use, we would take a knock against those guys. They are all highly trained fighters. He’s not need rescuing, Kira. He is a grown man who is blood and whom we can give options too. Do you get what I’m saying?”
Well now that he put it like that, yeah. “Of course I do.” Is what she said instead. “So how do you plan to approach him?”
“Simple, I am going to apply to the gym and get to know him a bit before I reveal that we are the nephew and niece of his long lost father that abandoned him and left him for dead on the streets of Cape Town.”
Jeez, dramatic much? “Amos, you and I both know that’s not exactly what went down.”
“Yes, but that’s not how he will see it. And we can’t really blame him, now can we.”
“Wow, you are really nervous.” Kita chortled, unable to hide her amusement. Amos seldom spoke this much, and with so much personality as well.
“I’m not that nervous.” He protested sternly. “I’m just serious. You’re not and that makes me nervous.”
The N2 highway from the airport to the city centre was depressing. You pass squatter camps that stretch as far as the eye can see, people and children run over the highway because there are no bridges built for them to use. The road is scattered with animal road kill of all shapes and sizes.
A feeling of doom and gloom set over the car as no-one spoke for 30 minutes until they arrived at their house in Tamboerskloof. There the heavy feeling lifted like a shoot catching wind. Tamboerskloof was a beautiful area central to all the activities of the famous streets like Kloof Street and Long Street, but still private enough away from media. Their house was encased by its garden, with old trees looming high, creating shade from the summer sun. Inside, each room was a subtle variety of colors with lots of big windows and wooden decks. It was a house that flashed freedom.
Amos had given her a week to get to know the city while his guys scouted for the gym and what goes on in and about the place.
So every morning Kita would pack her backpack, smear herself from head to toe with sun block, grab a cap and the biggest sunglasses she could find and off she goes. Walking down to the start of Kloof Street at the foot of Tamboerskloof, she never passed a shop without going in. When Kloof street ended it became Longstreet so she spent a week exploring the city. It was quite magical even if a little scary at times.
One day she found herself wondering to far and she got lost so she got in one of the taxi’s to continue her exploration.
They were driving through a different part of town now, it was a little bit more dodge but still interesting. An idea hit Kita and she felt a rush of exhilaration.
“Excuse me,” she interrupted the taxi driver in the middle of his tour guide speech. “do you know where the Hau family’s gym is?”
“But of course, it’s actually just a few blocks that way.” He answered with pride as he turned his taxi to the way he had pointed.
He stopped in the back alley of a tall black building with no windows at the back. There was a double glass door with tinted glass and nowhere was there a name to be seen. Kita thanked the taxi driver and asked him to wait. Taking her bag, she walked to the door, her legs shaking as she tried to appear natural. Pushing the doors open confidently, she entered the foyer where a young man was leaning behind a desk, eyes close. When she got closer he peeked at her through one eye and when he saw a beautiful lady standing there, he nearly lost his seat. Kita smiled at the awkwardness of the guy as he tried to get his voice back. It was sweet.
“I’m looking for Diene.” She asked politely.
“Another Russian, huh?” he sounded pleased and Kita only nodded. He just stared at her with a stupid grin on his face, his confidence seemed to be back. What’s up with that?
“Diene?” she asked again , a bit more irritable this time around.
“Who? Oh, Blue! Sure this way.” He pointed to the door behind him as Kita stood undecided if she should enter or not.
Whatever. She decided not to care anymore. Here goes nothing.
She wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. She was jittering all over and it felt like she was having heart palpitations.
With his creepy grin still in place he pushed the heavy door open for her and the hip-hop hit her first, then the light. It was one extremely big room with different areas. In one corner was a group of dancers in rehearsals, in another corner was a kind of obstacle course with a group of teens laughing and sweating on it. Down the one side of the space was standard gym equipment for cardio and weights. Every open wall space was filled with mirrors or climbing grips, making the place look like a busy warehouse. In the middle of the room were three sizable boxing rings in a row. There were instructors and students in two and the other one clearly had professionals in it. People were gathered around them, observing, learning and cheering.
The cheeky boy pointed to the second ring where two guys were sparring with a big man looming over them, barking instructions.
“That’s Blue.” He said pointing to the scary instructor. “Blue! Someone sent you a gift!”
They were next to the ring now and as he turned around to look down on them, Kira felt terrified. He studied her like a prize horse, giving Kira a chance to do the same. She knew immediately that he was blood, his eyes gave him away, the Grekov eyes of icy blue. It stood out even more against his caramel skin and dark braids. He was almost Amos’s size but not quite.
“She’s not a stripper, Marky.” Diene’s deep voice rang clearly in the open space.
A what? Suddenly Marky’s creepy smile made sense although the red that now flushed his face seemed set to strangle him.
A few people where observing them now as he climbed out of the ring to stand before her.
“Most of the strippers we have here are Russian immigrants.” He explained as he folded his arms over his chest. “What can I do for you?”
“Uh, okay.” Now what? Do I just get it out or do I exercise some tact? “uhm..”
“Spit it out, girl.” His curtness was offensive. “I have a class to give.”
Jeez, what a meany.
“My name is Kira Grekov and I’m your cousin.” She basically vomited the words but managed to look normal and still hold her hand out in greeting. This is going well.
For the first time the sternness fell away from his features to reveal a man slightly blind-sided. He just looked at her as he feebly shook her hand.
“Uh..” He stared a bit more before he suddenly shouted over his shoulder. “Kirill!”
He was still shaking Kira’s hand when another big man came jogging up behind him.
“Da?” Kirill flashed Kira a brilliant smile as he draped an arm across Diene’s neck, not taking his eyes of her. “What’s up Blue?”
“What do you think?” Diene inquired as they both stood there studying her intently.
“She does seem familiar but I can’t place it. What’s your name?” His Russian accent was still thick but his English was fluent.
“Kira Grekov.” She said tediously. This was getting old.
“Kirakita Grekov?” His child like charm quickly became stupid surprise as his arm fell limply from Dienne’s shoulders.
“Da.” She said nervously. The atmosphere got a little chillier and Dienne noticed it to.
“You know her?” He asked his friend suspiciously.
“Not personally. I’m Kirill by the way.” He said with an honest smile as he gently shook her hand before turning back to his friend. A perfect gentleman suddenly. “I know of her. Any Russian knows of them.”
“Them?” Diene was very confused by his friends sudden transformation from the vulgar Russian he knows to this polite stranger.
“Her and her brother. So what is Russian royalty doing here?” Kirill continue the conversation with ease.
“There is nothing royal about me.” She replied dryly.
“You know what I mean. You and your brother are like Russian souvenirs. I have a t-shirt with your face on it.” His cheeky grin was back and almost enough to lift her mood, almost. “So where is your twin?”
As if on queue, Amos and his team of four appeared at the entrance and immediately started strolling towards her. His look-out must have told him that Kira had arrived.
“There he is.” Kira said weakly. Amos looked really angry. His anger must have radiated trouble because fights stopped and men joined behind Diene and Kirill.
When Amos reached his sister he moved to stand before her with Ridick by his side. “Go wait in the car.” He said over his shoulder. Jackson and Maans flanked Kira and started steering her back but she shook them off.
“I’ve already told him so I might as well stay.” She could see the muscles in his face twitch and she was actually grateful to be surrounded by strangers.
“So she has told you.” He addressed Diene. “My name is Amos and these are friends of mine.” It was said politely but with steel.
“Friends? They look more like an army unit.” Diene shook Amos hand firmly and he nodded at the other men.
“Something like that.” Maans answered with a chuckle and a nod. “Great place, who owns it?”
He knew well enough who owns it but he saw an opportunity to add it to the conversation. They were all tiptoeing around the point and the suspension was killing her. Popping her head over Amos’s shoulder she smiled at Diene.
“Is the Tiger around? Could we have a word?” As the word came out the man in the third ring was knocked out cold and everyone looked that way. The man who delivered the final blow calmly took off his gloves and then removed his headgear. He was Asian and Kita felt her knees weaken.
He got down from the ring and moved towards them. He was big, really big and scary looking. Maybe it was because he was sweaty and breathing heavy but whatever it was, it was scary.
As he walked past them he looked at Diene.
“Bring them to the office, Kirill too. Everyone else get back to your own business.” It was said with the same calm steel that Amos spoke with.
They did as they were told without so much as an eye roll. But Kira sensed that it was respect, not fear, that had them obeying orders.
When they were standing in the office Kira walked up to the Tiger and told him firmly. “We are here to take Diene home.”
He looked taken aback and then realization made him laugh. Kirill was also laughing so hard the tears were running down his cheeks. His attempt to hide his laughter made it even funnier. Diene was the only one not laughing. His intense gaze jumped from Kira to Amos and she could see his mind shifting the pieces around to make a picture.
“Okay I get it.” Tiger chuckled. “The big bad Tiger kidnapped the poor helpless boy and made him a killing machine for his own private army of thugs, right?”
This just made Kirill howl with laughter, clutching at Diene who was also now sharing a grin.
Kira knew she was the butt of this joke. She was just not quite sure how yet.
“This man almost killed me when he tried to rob me on the street in 1998. He gave me this one.” Tiger drew his shirt over his head and turned his back to them. There was a beautiful tattoo of a tiger stretching across his entire back.
“Its beautiful.” Kira said without thinking, again.
“Uh, thanks but not the tattoo, the scar.” He said awkwardly.
“Oh,” She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. Concentrate. She looked past the tattoo and saw scars littering his back. “Okay, but which one? There are more than a few back here.”
“The long one by the right foot of the tiger.”
Kira saw it and gave a long, low whistle as she studied it closely. “That’s a good one. How many stitches?”
“210, took forever to heal as well.” He replied idly.
It was only when Amos cleared his throat that Kira jumped guiltily and retreated to his side. The two guys were also smirking at their boss but he ignored them.
“So your point is, that you didn’t corrupt him, he was already corrupted.” Amos stated frankly.
“I assume you haven’t heard very good things about me, Mr. Grekov, have you?” He sat down with a sigh on the couch next to his guys and indicated they all have a seat. “It looks like you need a few things clarified for you. I will do that for you not because I think you deserve it, but because I dislike complications and misunderstandings. Is that clear?”. They all nodded except Amos, who merely held his gaze.
“Okay, so what is the first thing that you heard about me?” He asked rubbing his hands together.
“That you killed a man in a cage fight.” Amos replied plainly.
“Ah well, it was not a cage, it was in a ring at a professional Muay Thai tournament and it was a freak accident, a miscalculation. It was one shot and he was dead. They didn’t have to pull me off his bloody body. Next?”
“You spent 10 years in lock up for a crime you didn’t commit.” Maans stated, not even looking at Amos.
“It was 4 years, not 10.” He was a bit more deadpan now. “Yes, I went to jail for a offense my brother committed but that can’t be proven. Next?”
“Did you kill your brother when you got out?” As she asked it she hated herself for it. What is wrong with me?
Both Diene and Kirill were on their feet in a heartbeat, making Amos’s boys step forward too and Kira’s heart jump right out of her chest.
“Sorry, sorry.” She apologized nervously. “I have no social filters, it’s embarrassing.”
“I can see that.” He sat there and it felt like forever before he spoke again. “My name is Gen by the way. The Tiger is a myth. No, I did not kill my brother. I would trade my life for his any day but he took that choice away from me when he killed himself a few days before I got out. The passing of our father and the guilt of my time in prison were too much for him on top of his addiction problem, so he overdosed. On purpose or accidently is unknown to us but we have our theories.”
“Your Dad died too?” Kira was feeling a little sick.
“Of a heart attack about halfway through my sentence.” He spoke easily but he suddenly looked exhausted. With another big sigh he sat forward and looked at Kira. “Okay this is taking longer than I expected. I’m just going to set straight the things that I know you probably think of me and then you can ask more afterwards if you have more questions. Okay, I do not kidnap kids off the street and make them assassins. I am not Chinese; I am Taiwanese by blood but South African by birth and culture. I did not corrupt Diene. I helped him get off drugs and got him focused and training for his own good. He has not competed in any of my Fight Nights by choice and the people here love and respect him. I took him in after he stabbed me and gave him a family and a home. I am not a monster. I am just a man. Now my patience is running dry but let me tell you that I know you are his blood and you are welcome here anytime to get to know him but it is his choice if he wants to go or not. You are welcome to this family but it’s not an easy family to be a part of.” He smiled and for the first time since they arrived, Kira saw her brother smile back.
Amos got up with his men behind him and shook Gen’s hand and then Kirill. When he shook Diene’s hand he held on a little longer.
“I look forward to getting to know you.” Amos said genuinely.
“Like wise, cousin.”
Kita just waved at them all before following her brother out and jumping on Riddick’s back like an excited kid. He didn’t complain as he piggy backed her out, Kira waving at the people watching them. She looks like such a hardcore woman but sometimes she acts like a child. It was charming.
When they got in the car, Amos grinned at her. “See, that wasn’t that bad was it?”
“I almost wet myself a few times.” Kita stated seriously, sending the guys into peels of laughter. Probably because they could relate but wouldn’t admit it.
Two week later, after plenty of lunch dates and hanging out with the boys and girls from the gym, Kita was feeling good about the whole thing. Now as she floated in the pool, she let her mind drift with the ripples of the water.
Water up her nose brought her out of her thoughts and looking up to see Amos kneeling by the pools edge, grinning at her.
“Asshole, have fun with the boys?” She asked while sneezing water from her nose.
“Yes I did.” Kicking his flops off, he sat on the edge of the pool with his feet in the water.
“Don’t sound so surprised. It’s not polite.” She teased and he just smiled at the water.
He looked so much happier now with a bit of a tan and no black suits. Cape Town was doing them both wonders and the people here were amazing. They are different and interesting, every single one of them. It’s not all good but it sure is worthwhile.
It was like her twin read her mind because his next words were exactly what she wanted to here.
“So you feel like staying?”
Kita caught her breath and then suddenly disappeared beneath the surface of the water where she screamed all the excitement out of her lungs. Coming up for a breath again she found Amos laughing gleefully.
“Is that a yes then?”
She screamed at the top of her lungs making her brother winch and sending the other guys running from the house in a frenzy.
“It’s decided then.”
It was a beautiful moment with Kira very unaware that the hardest part of her life was about to start.